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Is the current Super Rugby system unfair?

The Highlanders' Aaron Smith. (AAP Image/ SNPA, Ross Setford)
Roar Rookie
24th July, 2016
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1282 Reads

There are two things that make the current system for Super Rugby distinctly unfair: the seeding of the conference winners for home finals and the lopsided fixture that grants some teams an easier season than others.

The effects of the first problem are obvious to see (Highlanders with 52 points playing an away final against the Brumbies with 43 points). What interested me was finding the effect of the different draws, so I used some basic statistics to find out.

» View the full 2017 Super Rugby draw right here

To start with I found how many competition points each team gave away per game this season (the most difficult team to get log points from was the Highlanders at 1.2 points a game and the easiest the Kings who would gift on average 4.4 points a game). I used this information to find how many log points each team should have earned for the season if they played exactly to the average.

Kings 30.7
Force 32.3
Blues 32.5
Jaguares 32.9
Reds 33
Chiefs 33.2
Highlanders 33.4
Crusaders 34
Hurricanes 34
Waratahs 34.8
Brumbies 35.8
Sharks 35.8
Rebels 36.1
Lions 36.9
Sunwolves 37.3
Cheetahs 39
Bulls 41.7
Stormers 42.7

What this shows is how many log points you would expect each of these teams to get, based just on their draws. It reveals the Stormers basically had a 12-point head start on the Kings before the season began.

I used this information to adjust the final competition ladder by subtracting points from the teams that had an easier draw than average and adding points for the teams that had a more difficult draw (the average log points achieved this year was 35.4).

Original Points Adjusted Points
Hurricanes 53 54.4
Lions 52 50.6
Stormers 51 43.7
Brumbies 43 42.6
Highlanders 52 54
Chiefs 51 53.2
Crusaders 50 51.4
Sharks 43 42.6
Blues 39 41.9
Waratahs 40 40.6
Bulls 42 35.8
Rebels 31 30.3
Jaguares 22 24.6
Reds 17 19.4
Cheetahs 21 17.4
Force 13 16.1
Kings 9 13.8
Sunwolves 9 7.2

So why this does change the table somewhat, when using the current playoff system the quarter-finals remain the same? One thing it shows is the Stormers had a very easy draw and this makes their quarter-final thumping by the Chiefs less surprising.

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It also makes the top tier of teams (the four New Zealand teams and the Lions) very clear, with a large gap developing between them and the rest of the competitions. It also shows what a disappointing season the Bulls and Cheetahs had in the very easy Africa 1 conference.